Brazilians Marquinhos, Morro set eyes on NBA Draft

Brazilians Marquinhos, Morro set eyes on NBA Draft
Feb 25, 2006, 11:46 pm
It’s a unique situation.

Marcus Vinicius Vieira de Souza (also known as ‘Marquinhos’) has been going through one long workout. That’s what his whole season has been about, even when he was on the court.

To get here, the 6’9 Brazilian small forward cut his ties with agent Marc Fleischer (replacing him with Nene’s agent Michael Coyne) and opted out of his contract with Italian club Scavolini Pesaro last year, just to focus on the NBA draft, back in his native country once again. Were these questionable decisions to make? Is he doing the right thing? Marcus doesn’t even have ears for that. He always talked about the NBA and doesn’t think he’s had the right opportunity in the last two years. In 2004 after entering the draft for the first time, he hurt his hamstring during a workout in Utah, forcing him to eventually pull out. Last season after a long season in Italy he once again declared, but arrived late with a short and busy schedule that did not give him enough time to properly prepare himself for the draft, forcing him to pull out a 2nd time.

Marquinhos turned down big offers from Italy because he was (and still is) determined to make the League. In 2004-05, Marcus had a very surprising season with a Premiata Montegranaro team that basically had only two Americans (guard Randolph Childress and center Elton Tyler) alongside him. Actually, it was a roster composed for one mission, to sustain and survive in Lega Due (Italy’s second division). But they instead made it to the finals, where Marcus played minutes at the point after the team’s starter went down with an injury.

Now he is back in Brazil, looking bulkier than ever, learning from an ex-NBA coach – Bob Donewald, formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Hornets and most recently the NBA and NFL draft training facility Speed Strength Systems – ready to arrive in the USA this March.

“I didn’t feel that I was well prepared in the last couple of years, but now I’m on my way to making it. I’m working hard on my game and body, pretty much focused”, said the Brazilian, who had 19.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.9 apg, 2.2 spg and 2.7 TO’s in the Paulista Championship – the strongest regional tournament in Brazil.

The talent here is unquestioned. Marcus is very skilled and can play like a point forward - although he may not be the guy with the greatest instincts or feel for the game. But he can run the court like a guard, create his own shot and shoot from just about every range. Marcus can push the ball in the open court easily and quite fluidly. He rebounds well too, given his size, and that can look better with his strength improvement. That leads to situations where he pulls down rebounds and ignites the one man fast break all by himself.

That’s what he displayed in the Paulista league, yet we have to consider that he faced abysmal competition – young, talented players in a totally disorganized environment. And, yes, this is the strongest level of play here in Brazil.

Marcus tried to be disciplined on the court. Tried too much, in fact. Sometimes he passed the ball excessively– at least that’s what he showed the two times we could watch him live. It’s not the case of preferring for him to be selfish, but the fact here is that Marcus was clearly the most talented guy on the floor, by far, because of his versatile array of skills.

He was trying to do the right thing (entry and lateral passes, pick-and-rolls etc.), but his team couldn’t connect. And Marcus couldn’t – or maybe didn’t want to – dominate. I could guess that this might have been correlated somehow with his workout spirit in his past two NBA draft adventures.

Competing or just working within half-court sets, however, Marcus can get lost on the court some times, being too much passive, just waiting for a pass in the corner to sink a three pointer. He needs to move better off the ball.

On defense, his effort has to improve in one-on-one situations and he’s working on that with Donewald – but more on this later. Because of his length, Marcus can be a force attacking the passing lanes, without risking his position too much. His steals resulted in quite a few dunks and layups on the fast break.

That’s all we can say regarding his action in real games - the last of them being in December - and that’s what was seen by five NBA teams, two of whom seem to be very high on him. From there until May, it’ll only be the empty gym.

We had access to one of his workouts, in a very hot and humid gym in São Paulo. Two and a half hours of offensive drills: ball handling, one-on-one moves with layups, hooks and pull-up shooting, and then more three-point shooting - from NBA range, naturally.

It’s uncommon to see a guy his size with such speed and ball handling skills. In these kinds of settings he’ll surely excel. Marcus also has a high release, although he can speed it up a little bit. And his range comes easily. In the jump shot drills it’ll look incredible, it’s almost automatic. But in games he can be as streaky as can be.

What else could we say from a workout like this? Apart from his difficulty in finishing with his left hand, even in layups, the rest was easy. Marcus can stay cool, because it seems like he’ll look very good working out privately with NBA teams.

One thing that’ll surely look great is his improved shape: Marcus is bulking up continuously, mainly in the upper body. He weighs 230 lbs right now (up from 205 last year) and doesn’t look like a young and fragile kid anymore. This is very important for him to guard NBA small forwards.

He always had lower body strength, and that could be tied with a comment made to us by an NBA scout about him: “He has locked hips, which limits his flexibility and makes it tough for him to get low to the ground to handle the ball in tight half-court sets and especially move his feet to stay in front of his man on the perimeter. Rudy Gay sometimes struggles with the same thing, but not nearly as badly. He has great skill without a doubt but he needs to become more agile in his movements to really capitalize on his full potential. I question his defense, especially at the 3”.

But Donewald denies it. “Regarding the defense, that’s not right. It’s just as simple as he didn’t know the right posture to guard. Now he knows that he has to bend his knees and keep his body erect in front of the opponent instead of keeping his legs straight and bending his body forward. I guarantee that this is just the past. It was the same situation we had with LeBron James”, said the coach.

“Right now, I can say that Marcus could start for my Cavs and Hornets teams. I believe that he could start in front of David Wesley and Ira Newble or Eric Williams. He’s ready to start for an NBA team”, insists Donewald.

But does he have the desire to do it? One thing that follows Marcus’ entire career is the constant questioning about the sacred package of effort/attitude/character. Well, we can say that he had some problems with Brazilian coaches. But we could also point out that those issues could be seen in black and white, with no gray areas, and possibly guess that Marcus wasn’t always in the dark side – to put things that way.

Anyway, Donewald laughs about it. “In one word? Bullshit. He’s one of the nicest kids that I’ve been around. He listens to everything I have to say and obeys. He executes on the court”. Well, that comes from a guy who’s had some real attitudes in Baron and Ricky Davis, so we have to put things in perspective.

Just one thing to ponder between those following points: 1) Marcus has bad memories from his last two experiences with the NBA draft, coming late or without adequate training; 2) But what about the word ‘unproven’? Isn’t the NBA afraid of that? How comfortable will they be in their scouts that only saw him a few times a full year ago in the 2nd division of Italy? Will a team draft him solely off what he shows in workouts?

So it comes to this: Marcus really believes that he has to do what he has to do; dreaming, eating, sleeping and working, working, and working some more to get ready for the NBA draft. He took a different, unusual route to do it. If he makes it well, who knows? Maybe it can become a new trend for foreign guys.

Donewald and his staff are trying to do something that is both extremely tough and rare: taking a diamond in the rough that almost no one knows about and making him a legit prospect for the NBA draft. And DraftExpress gives you the first take on Leonardo di Pacce dos Santos, widely known as “Morro”.

That’s a Brazilian courtesy to the world: a country rich with raw talent, but with bad eyes and poor organization to take care of it. So it comes with no secret or surprise that more and more kids are leaving early – for their own sake – to instead learn with Spanish and Italian coaches.

But that wasn’t the case with Morro, a left-handed perimeter oriented 6’11 power forward born in 1984 (which means he’s an automatic candidate). Morro has a decent wingspan, very good mobility and coordination for his size and a soft touch to finish with both hands (his right hand is clearly better than Marcus’ left). He’s also a good weak side defender (he led the Paulista championship in blocked shots), with a smooth stroke from NBA 3-point range, albeit with a little bit of a slow release. Morro also displayed some nice ball handling skills for a guy with his size, dribbling two balls at the same time, with both hands, very fast.

For his age, however, Morro is a very inexperienced player. He didn’t play with the senior National team a single time, and had one brief tenure with the juniors. Even at the club level, he didn’t get much of a chance to play with big time competition. He’s still a project from the 1984 class.

With that said, you can expect a fairly raw player, who’s trying to learn the game of basketball from Donewald right now.

The good news?

“He learns very fast. I’m teaching the basics to him and he’s growing too fast. What did you see today? He can take step-back jumpers”, said the coach. And, yes, he was right: Morro is already sinking those step-back three pointers. “He has the weapons: a good hook with both hands, a pretty stroke, I don’t know if there’re many guys in college that could match up with him right now”.

Physically, Morro still needs a lot of work. But with Eric Lichter (Nene’s trainer) at Speed Strength Systems waiting for him in Cleveland, maybe this won’t be a problem when June rolls around. According to his agent Mike Coyne, the two are expected to arrive in the States in a matter of just a couple of weeks, but will be off limits to NBA teams for a while until they are deemed ready.

“Time is on our side”, said Donewald.

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